Thin social line between security, privacy

A news report this week says social networking site, Facebook, may contact people whose profile identity is suspect. But should social networking sites have all our information?
Written by Swati Prasad, Contributor

Every time I log onto Facebook, it asks me for my phone number. I skip that step. And each time I do that, I am reminded that my security status on this social networking Web site is low.

I fail to understand how my phone number can make my account more secure. On the contrary, I would rather give out as little information to Facebook, Twitter, and so on, as possible. It's bad enough that I get so many marketing calls. Putting my phone number on my profile would mean getting some more of those pesky marketing calls. Moreover, I would be giving out more information to people who I do not know, therefore don't trust (the security settings notwithstanding; because I do not understand cyber world and cybercriminals well enough).

That's why a news report this week took me by surprise. Apparently, Facebook is making a "huge effort" to weed out fake profiles to prevent misuse of such identities.

"Absolutely, there is a huge effort," Facebook India's business manager, Pavan Varma, told a news agency when asked about the company's action on this front.

So what's the criterion?

According to Varma, doubts about the authenticity of the account will arise if an account has a generic name instead of a proper name, uses images of celebrities and cartoon characters as display pictures, or does not have "enough friends", Varma said.

There are enough people out there, especially youngsters, who put their favorite Bollywood and Hollywood actor as their profile picture. Even cartoon characters are a huge favorite among mothers of young kids and youngsters.

And when it comes to elderly people, they seldom have more than 25 or 30 friends. Their primary objective of joining Facebook is to keep in touch with their children who are settled in different cities or countries. Facebook is the easiest way for them to stay connected with their children and grandchildren and view their latest pictures.

Varma goes on to say that Facebook could reach out to people, and ask them to identify themselves if they don't have enough friends "because we don't want fake identities". "We are worried about the experience we deliver... It's not about protecting our brand identity so much," he said.

And he has a point. There have been reports of fake accounts being created by computer programs, which are used for inflating the number of "Likes" on Facebook page for a brand. And Facebook is keen to take out fake "Likes" generated by spammers, malware and black marketers.

More than marketing, the medium can also be used by anti-social elements to gather information about their targets. But my worry is--the more Facebook wants to know, the more it may annoy some of its genuine followers or subscribers.

The line between security and privacy is rather thin.


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